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There are those among us--you know who you are--who tend to avoid lesbian fiction because the genre isn't known for literary excellence. The occasional lesbian mystery or vampire story may slip through as vacation reading, but for something serious you turn to the poets (Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Jewelle Gomez), or to straight women novelists, or to writers such as Dorothy Allison, whose work transcends the boundaries of lesbian fiction. This anthology is for readers like you. The consistently fine quality of the stories is matched by their unusual ingenuity and playfulness with language (the specter of James Joyce hovers over many stories, and not only those by Irish writers). In fact, American writers--who might be thought to have pioneered the genre--may seem sluggish and puritan by comparison. As the editors point out, "the word lesbian is not global in its use and significance," and while most of the authors included would define themselves as lesbian, for others the term is almost without meaning. Selections by Marguerite Yourcenar, Anchee Min (from Red Azalea), and the Egyptian writer Alifa Rifaat are among the most striking. --Regina Marler
From Publishers Weekly
With more than 35 selections, this anthology is notable for the insight it offers into cultures across the globe and the attitudes of various societies toward women in general and lesbians in particular. Several contributors approach the idea of homosexuality as the forbidden fruit via supernatural means. In one of the most ambitious and successful pieces, Egyptian writer Alifa Rifaat describes a prominent married woman's mystical and sensual liaison with a female snake, a "monarch of the djinn," weaving in religious allusions alongside domestic details. Emma Donoghue's haunting "Looking for Petronilla" explores issues of class disparity and fierce loyalty in Ireland as a woman travels back through time to search for a wronged bondswoman. Others evoke raw desire, as in "Madame Alaird's Breasts," by Trinidadian-born Dionne Brand, a meditation on a French teacher's voluptuous figure by her adolescent girl students, and the more understated excerpt from St?phanie's Book by French writer Mireille Best, an atmospheric scene in which a married woman is seduced by her son's teacher. Informative prefaces set each piece in the context of the writer's work and culture. What characterizes this wide-ranging assemblage of selections is the universal struggle of each character to be her own woman in her own time. (June) Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This collection of lesbian fiction, not all by lesbian authors, is a marvelous assortment of voices from around the world. From such big names as Violette Leduc, Emma Donoghue, Makeda Silvera, and Dionne Brand, to new-to-American-eyes writers like Jeanne d'Arc Jutras, Yasmin Tambiah, and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, this anthology has definitely opened my eyes to the diversity of lesbian fiction. I only wish there was more available by some of these authors here in the US! This book only whets the appetite like standing in the middle of an international food festival, not knowing which morsel to savor first.
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